Black History is nearing an end. Our community newspaper has printed a series of profiles celebrating the milestones and individuals in American black history. Here are a few:
James Weldon Johnson. Born 1871, the second of three children, James Weldon went on to become a future teacher, poet, songwriter, and civil rights activist While still serving as a public school principal, Johnson studied law and became the first African American to pass the bar exam in Florida. Johnson—displeased with the racial stereotypes propagated by popular music—enrolled at Columbia University in 1903 to expand his literary horizons. In 1916, Weldon was offered the post of field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He went on to assemble three ground-breaking anthologies: The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1925), and The Second Book of Negro Spirituals (1926).
Lucy Stanton Sessions (1831-1910) Lucy Stanton was born as a freed inhabitant of Cleveland, Ohio. She is believed to be the first African American woman to graduate from college, attaining a degree from Oberlin College in 1850. After college she moved to Columbus, Ohio, and became a Principal to a school. Life entailed more moving during a time when she taught fugitive slaves. Later in life, after a divorce, she remarried and the family moved to Tennessee where Lucy Sessions continued her philanthropic work, including serving as president of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She and her husband later moved to Los Angeles, California before her death in 1910.
Charlotte E. Ray was one of seven children. She was born in 1850 in New York City. She was raised by a father who was a minister and active in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. Charlotte Ray received her education at the institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington D.C. and went on to teach at Howard University. She earned a law degree in 1872 and became one of the first black women to be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar and argue cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. She became involved in the women’s suffrage movement and joined the National Association of Colored Women., inspiring many to transcend the strictures of racism and misogyny.
“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9, ESV)